The Memory Bible is a guide to improving memory loss and keeping your brain young. It’s written by one of the top memory experts, Gary Small, M.D and his wife, Gigi Vorgan. I read the new and revised version of this best-selling book and having finished it, can attest that it is deserving of the title ‘best seller’. It’s interesting, engaging, and useful. It combines scientific and medical fact with stories in a way that makes it easy to read, understand, and use. There are little brain tests throughout the book that allow you to objectively score your memory, followed by advice and tips on how to better improve it.
Most of us have or will have a moment where a name slips from our mind, where we can’t remember why we walked into a room or where we put our keys. Instead of blaming ageing, the Memory Bible explains why this happens and how you can prevent it.
Alzheimer’s is one of the costliest diseases and according to the Brain Bible affects 5% of people over 65 years of age and 50% of those over 85 years. While there is a large genetic factor to Alzheimer’s and memory loss, lifestyle choices play an enormous role. This is where epigenetics can override genes. I appreciated that the tips and advice he gave wasn’t extreme or costly – most of it requires very little. Things like reducing your stress, getting better sleep, drinking ample water, eating a nutritious diet, reducing sugar, and exercising, can improve your memory and prevent memory loss. And for those dealing with a family member suffering from memory loss, there is a chapter devoted to care and understanding how medications work together.
One of the surprising bits of information I learnt was that there is no such thing as a photographic memory – just people with good memory techniques. A memory technique is a coding system, the filing cabinet for the brain. Your prior knowledge and interests influence how well you learn and recall new information, and your filing and storage system is most effective when the new information has meaning.
Gary Small, MD shares three basic skills – LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT – which are the foundation for a solid memory training program. According to him, just learning these skills will vastly improve your memory. Let’s get into them.
The true art of memory is the art of attention
Step one is to actively observe what you want to learn. One of the most common barriers to effective learning is that people do not pay attention to situations in which new information is presented. In the words of Samuel Johnson, “The true art of memory is the art of attention”.
Our vision is often our first exposure to the things we want to remember. However, it is not the only sense we use – smell, sound, taste, and feel can all bring back memories. ‘Look’ thus represents all our senses – to truly remember you need to observe and pay attention using all your senses.
Tip: to get started, start LOOKing and make a conscious effort to take in trivial information, like what someone is wearing, or focusing on the route when you’re in the passenger seat.
Step two is creating mental snapshots of memories. It’s visualizing what you looked at, what you want to remember and creating a little snapshot in your mind. Later, you’ll pull out that mental snapshot and describe what you see. SNAP – creating vivid and memorable images fixes those memories into our long-term memory storage.
Snaps can take on two forms – real or imagined. A real snap is an active observation, concentrating on what you see and making a conscious effort to fix the observed image into a mental snapshot. Imagined snapshots are created from your own memories and fantasies, they can be a fantasy distortion of an image you observe, but still become fixed in your memory as a mental snapshot.
Tip: when creating a mental snapshot, use as much detail as you can. The more detailed and colorful the snapshot, the easier it will be to recall.
Step three is to link your mental snapshots together. Connect is the process of associating two mental snapshots, so you can recall the connection later. Connect is the skill that helps you remember birthdates and names of people you just met. To do this, you need to create a new mental snapshot that includes both mental images, i.e. An image of a person and their name.
Linking or connecting is especially helpful when you need to remember a list. There are a few ways to do this, either by creating a story that connects each link or using an acronym.
Tip: If you’re using the story telling method, make sure the first image reminds you of why you created this list.
According to Small, the more you use LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT, the more natural it will become and the better your memory will be.
If you want to dive deeper into memory and brain health, pick up The Memory Bible at bookstores or online here.
The Memory Bible is published by Hachette Books and distributed in South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.